Ah, Ghent. My favorite place. As soon as B and I stepped off the train from Brussels, I felt like I was home. You know how there are some people or places you feel instantly bonded to? That's how I was with this city. I'm full of sighs just thinking about it. I wish I could jump through my computer screen and into these photos.
We were amazed by how old everything was in Ghent. So quaint, so charming, and definitely one of the coziest places I've ever visited. Between the cobblestones and the waterways, I felt like I was walking around in a Pieter Bruegel painting. (One like this. Not one with a lot of death and fighting.) I believe I mentioned that our flat was built in the 1730's, no? Impressive, considering The United States wasn't really a "thing" until 1776. The house was technically older than our country. That's pretty damn cool.
Speaking of old, check out this castle. Gravensteen was built in 1180 by Philip of Alsace on the site of an old wooden castle. It was abandoned in the 14th century then became a courthouse and a prison before it started to decay. Houses were built around it before it was set to be demolished a few hundred years ago. In 1885, the city bought the castle, took out the houses that were built using its walls and started to restore it. It's still surrounded on one side by the original moat. I would have loved to have seen what it looked like back then.
Ghent is full of incredible little restaurants. When we first settled in, we went to a cute little vegan restaurant called Greenway (get the thai curry!) then got drinks at a traditional little tavern called Brasserie Midi. It was super old school but nice and charming. (No wifi. A little heartbreaking at first but forced us to talk to each other.)
We also ate some of the best pizza we've ever had at Eat Love Pizza. (Which is saying a lot because I'm very Italian.) Some other places I'd highly recommend checking out are Panache, and an amazing hot chocolate shop. I can't remember the name of it but if you're visiting Ghent, here's a Google street view shot of it. (I guess it was built after the photo was taken?)
One unexpected thing we loved about Ghent was the bell sound the trams made instead of honking. Something very small, I know, but it was great. I just spent 20 minutes looking for videos of it... but didn't have any luck.
Something we intended to check out but accidentally stumbled upon was "Graffitistraat." The street, Werregarenstraat, was designated as a legal place for graffiti back in the 1990's. Because artists are free to come and go as they please, it's constantly changing. B and I made a little mark there. I like to think it hasn't been covered up yet.
Ghent is one of the most walkable places I've traveled to. We walked a LOT, which is good because we also ate a lot. It's easy to get caught up in the beautiful buildings and not realize how far you've gone. We're the kind of people who don't mind getting "lost" though. That's how you discover new things.
Isn't the juxtaposition of modern and medieval so lovely? Ghent is such a unique place with a great energy.
Oh, if you're in Belgium, you must try some fries. I was more excited for these than I was for Belgian waffles or chocolate. If you want an authentic experience, get them on the street. We got these bad boys at a cart called Fritter Jozef in the Vrijdagmarkt. The area is also great for shopping and people-watching.
I truly left a piece of my heart in Ghent. If I wasn't as close to my family and miss them like crazy, I'd move there in a heartbeat. I still have some more photos to share from my trip to keep your eyes peeled.